Certified Vegan

Certified Vegan products do not contain any animal products, animal derived GMOs, or products clarified or finished with animal products. Certified products or their ingredients may not be involved with animal testing. For certification, they must provide supplier verification that animal products were not used in the product’s manufacturing or ingredients.

According to a recent article in The Guardian, “Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth.” This is in part explained by a study showing that “more than 80% of farmland is used for livestock but it produces just 18% of food calories and 37% of protein.”

Where to find it:

Amy’s – a brand that makes a bounty of organic, certified vegan prepared foods (canned and frozen) in grocery stores and online. Find a location near you on their website.

USDA Certified Organic

This organic standard provides a framework for organic growers by certifying their omission of agrochemicals (pesticides, herbicides, and chemical-synthetic fertilizers) and GMOs. The use of animal feeds is also strictly regulated. In the US, a business can apply to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredited certifying agent to get products certified as USDA Certified Organic.  However, some smaller producers regard this certification process to be expensive. That is why some smaller companies’ claim to be organic but do not have the official certification.

Where to find it:

Rent’s Due Ranch – A part of the non-profit Tilth Alliance, this delicious local farm is based in Stanwood, WA. Their produce is sold at some local coops as well as the Redmond Saturday Market and University District Farmers Market.  Their products are always a cut above in terms of quality, nutrition, freshness, and taste.

Demeter Biodynamic Certification

This certification is organic but also emphasizes the use of manures and composts over chemicals, appropriate treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a single system, and a focus on local production and distribution systems that may benefit the soil and biodiversity.  Demeter is an organization based on Berlin but has local offshoots or affiliates in 80 countries, such as Biodyvin in France certifying bio-dynamic wine, or Demeter’s Association in the US. Organizations that have achieved the Demeter Biodynamic certification are on this map. Among the various “natural” and organic approaches, biodynamic farming stand out for consideration of the cycles of nature and making sure the energy and life in the ground is enhanced rather than depleted.

Where to find it:

Wilridge Winery – Boasts the title of “‘greenest winery™’ in Washington” and is “the first certified organic and biodynamic vineyard and winery in the state.” Based in Yakima, they offer tastings at their vineyard as well as  several Western Washington locations. Detailed information on locations can be found on their website.

Sunfield FarmA non-profit run school in the north of Washington State in Port Hadlock teaches biodynamic methods.

Fair Trade Certified

These products show customers that the company uses equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain. They do this by ensuring fair treatment and prices while seeking less damaging environmental impact, especially for farmers and villages providing the raw materials to intermediaries. Certifications are available for a variety of different product categories, and quarterly fees for branded products vary based on the type of business.

Where to find it:

Theo Chocolate – A Fremont-based company that buys from Fair Trade Certified intermediaries. Their chocolate is also healthier than the average due to the absence of soy lecithin (a saturated fat) in the bars. Their chocolate bars can be found in many grocery stores

Endangered Species  – These organic chocolates are also fair trade and the company boasts other social responsibility with 10 percent of its profits go to conservation groups like Rainforest Trust, Wildlife Conservation Network, Xerces Society, and the African Wildlife Foundation.

Other Fair Trade chocolates we like are Dagoba, Eden chocolate, Green & Black, Maya Gold, and Rapunzel. All are available at PCC.

Certified Humane

For this certification, farmers must meet specific standards for the care and handling of farm animals in order to have their products certified.  Please note that “certified humane” does not refer to methods of butchering an animal before it goes to market but rather is about the life of the animal.

Where to find it:

ASPCA – The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals provides a list of farms that are certified humane, animal welfare approved, or in the animal welfare partnership (all seeking related goals of humane treatment) by state.

Pure Eire Dairy – This company checks just about every box for milk that we can find. They are USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Animal Welfare Approved, completely grass-fed, and free of A1 Beta Casein. For more on their practices click here.

Free Range and Pasture Raised

Products with these certifications permit their animals, for at least part of the day, to roam freely outdoors, rather than being confined in an enclosure most or all of their lives. On many farms, the outdoors ranging area is fenced, but free range permits “locomotion” and sunlight that is otherwise prevented by indoor housing systems and the unnaturally crowded cages and pens of some agro-businesses. Free range may apply to meat, egg, or dairy farming.  

Note that USDA free range regulations currently apply only to poultry and indicate that the animal has been allowed some access to the outside. However, US regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time outside. In some cases, as a result of poorly defined terms, free range and pasture-raised treatment of animals may vary greatly. You may wish only to patronize cooperative farm organizations such as Organic Valley, grocer cooperatives like PCC Markets, or individual local farms that that more strongly focus on the quality and quantity of range available to animals.

Where to find it:

Misty Meadows Farm – Located in Everson, WA claims their eggs are from hens that are genuinely not just “free range” but truly “pasture raised.” According to their website, “[Their] chickens have continuous, year round access to the outdoors…  [And they] rotate their pasture over several acres so that there is always enough ground to keep them happily scratching away. [They] feed [their] chickens a certified organic, locally milled grain daily ration and all the bugs they can catch!”


The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) established the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to create sustainability standards for fish and seafood. Salmon farms have been accused of polluting the oceans, spreading sea lice, and fostering disease.  Although they are getting better at limiting pollution, escapees, contaminants, and disease, farmed fish are still releasing diseases to native fish, crowding out native species, and causing other problems. It is best at least to make sure your fish has some Seafood Watch certification or standard before buying it. Seattle’s local PCC Markets reports on why they choose wild over farmed shrimp as the sustainable choice.

Where to find it:

Pike Place Fish – They have “made the commitment to sell only 100% sustainable seafood” and sells lots of wild-caught fish.

Gemini Fish Market – They seek sustainably harvested fish and lots of wild caught fish and seafood.

Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance was created in the late 1980s from a social movement committed to conserving rain forests and their biodiversity. One key element of the standard is the compulsory elaboration and implementation of a detailed plan for the development of a sustainable farm management system to assist wildlife conservation. Another objective is to improve workers’ welfare by establishing and securing sustainable livelihoods. Producer prices may carry a premium but instead of guaranteeing a fixed floor price, the standard seeks to improve the economic situation of producers through higher yields.

Where to find it:

Grounds for Change – Based in Poulsbo, this coffee company works hard to preserve rainforests while roasting and selling, among other beans, single-sourced coffee like this one from Nicaragua.  Information on their impressive environmental stewardship, including working with the Rainforest Alliance, click here.


The forest-like structure of shade coffee farms provides habitat for a far greater number of migratory and resident birds, reptiles, ants, butterflies, bats, plants and other organisms. Buying shade-grown coffee encourages a higher diversity of migratory birds and native flora and fauna.

Where to find it:

Poverty Bay Coffee – Coffee from these roasters is shade grown and organic, with more information on that here.  It is also delicious!

Images by Summer Hanson
© Emeraldology 2018